Top 20 Travel Agencies
ATN power list ranks 20 of the region's top agents
01 Al Tayyar Travel Group
Offices: 315 Staff: 1,700 Vice Chairman and President: Dr. Nasser Al Tayyar
Riyadh-based Al Tayyar Travel Group (ATG) was established over 30 years ago and is now one of Saudi Arabia’s largest travel and tourism groups, offering five key sectors of travel, tourism, cargo, accommodation, Hajj and Umrah services; as well as a plethora of complementary services such as transport, domestic tourism, insurance and conferences and meetings organisation.
ATG has more than 1,700 employees in the Middle East travel sector and has expanded outside Saudi across the region into Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon and the GCC with over 315 offices. In 2010 the company reported sales volumes of over US $1 billion (SAR 3.8 billion). ATG specialises in corporate travel and is the largest travel company in the Middle East with a 21% market share of the KSA market.
The company is now focusing on gaining an increasing share of the retail market by leveraging its network and online capabilities.
2011 has seen ATG unveil a brand new corporate identity in a bid to keep the company in line with the continuously evolving travel industry; as well as a new advertising campaign. The fresh look is part of a comprehensive revamp for the entire company which includes adoption of more sophisticated technology with the launch of a new booking engine altayyaronline.com.
Also in keeping with the latest technology trends, ATG launched a flight booking iPhone app exclusively for Middle East customers in collaboration with Amadeus and 2Share. The 2ShareTravel app for iPhone is the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia.
ATG also tied up with Al Shamel International as part of a drive to expand the company’s presence in the Gulf markets through the new partnership.
On top of all of that ATG is helping to put travel and tourism on the map in Saudi Arabia — being the first ever travel company to win the prestigious Prince Nayef Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Gold Award for Saudisation. The company was recognised for its continuing efforts to attract Saudi Nationals into the industry and to offer full training to all levels of staff through its Al Tayyar Training Academy.
The award was seen as a fitting tribute to the vision of president of the group Dr. Nasser Al Tayyar, who believes Saudisation to be a vital factor in the growth and development of all companies within the Kingdom.
02 Dnata Travel Services
Offices: 100 Staff: 1,000 Divisional Vice President: Majid Al Mulla
Owned by the Emirates Group, Dnata Travel Services has developed extensive coverage across the Middle East region, with more than 1,000 employees at 100 locations in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Afghanistan.
Dnata also represents global corporate TMC HRG from North Africa to West Asia. Dnata covers all travel segments, including corporate, retail, trade, eCommerce, contact centres, government travel and holidays through an unparalleled variety of distribution channels.
In April this year, Dnata underwent a global re-brand as part of an effort to unify its international outstations and divisions as one. A brand new company logo, vision, mission and set of values were created to encompass Dnata’s diverse portfolio of businesses and unify its 20,000 employees around the world.
With over 50 years experience in the travel industry the company continues to expand into new territories and partnerships. It was recently awarded the shore excursions contract for Costa Cruises, and its strong focus on building up non-air product offering has paid off with triple digit growth during key holiday periods.
With customer care another priority, Dnata’s customer contact centre was recently developed to become one of the region’s leading contact centres.
The coming year will see a strong focus on eCommerce for Dnata and a target to continue growth rates ahead of the market in all regions, as well as to evaluate further expansion opportunities.
Vice president of Dnata Travel Majid Al Mulla has over 20 years experience in the field of travel and has been instrumental in driving the growth of Dnata since joining the company in 1999. This year saw Al Mulla elected as president of the Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group (DTTAG). He is dedicated to galvanising support for the body from Dubai’s travel trade and has pledged to win the support of travel agency owners and government bodies to drive the travel industry forward.
03 Kanoo Travel
Offices: 50 Staff: 1,500 Managing Director: Nabeel Kanoo
With a presence in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt, Kanoo Travel is one of the largest TMCs in the Middle East. Kanoo has also expanded internationally with travel and foreign exchange offices in the UK and France and cemented its market leadership through its partnership with global TMC American Express.
Kanoo Travel handles some of the largest corporate travel portfolios in the region, as well as managing GSA representation for over 30 international brands. The company has won numerous service-quality awards — including the Dubai Quality Award and the Sheikh Khalifa Excellence award.
This year saw Kanoo make an impact in the Saudi market, being the first to introduce exclusive ladies centres and invest in empowering Saudi women at its ladies-only call centre.
The next three years will see Kanoo Travel making major investments in upgrading existing corporate travel contact centres to improve efficiency; and consolidating its corporate travel service into two ‘state-of-the-art’ multi-channel corporate service centres in the UAE and KSA.
Considerable investment will also be made into online capabilities. Corporate and leisure customers will benefit from a new e-commerce portal offering a complete basket of travel products online. The leisure business will be also be revived with new products at competitive prices.
A very well-known and respected face in the regional travel and tourism industry, Nabeel Kanoo is the director of Kanoo Travel executive board as well as being chairman of the Tourism Committee in Bahrain and board member of the Ministry of Tourism, Bahrain.
04 Al Shamel International
Staff: 350 Offices: 8 Managing director: Khaled Al Ghanim
With over 350 employees, Al Shamel serves its clients from eight fully-owned offices in Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. As regional partner of Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) and CWTSatoTravel [travel provider to the US government] the combined network reaches over 150 countries globally. In 2010 Al Shamel International reported annual sales of more than US $480 million, and predicts an increase on this in 2011.
This year saw Al Shamel undergo a major restructuring initiative to improve efficiency and customer service, creating specialised departments such as Alshamel Energy Service — focused on servicing corporates engaged in marine and offshore activities such as Halliburton, Exxon, BP and Shell.
The latest technology and systems have also been introduced to improve its data analytical capabilities and reservation systems; and Alshamel’s Military and Government Division (M&G) has been proactive in assisting the US Government in moving to an electronic platform.
In its mission to attain international-level standards in corporate travel management, Al Shamel is running ‘Operation Excellence’ in coordination with CWT to enhance the quality of its services — the project is set to be complete by mid-2012.
At the holding’s level, the company’s third quarter financial results reported record growth of 27% in net profit across the region, which reinstated the company position as one of the leading TMCs in the region.
05 Omeir Travel Agency
Staff: 500 Offices: 70 CEO: Khalifa Bin Omeir
Established in 1956, Omeir Travel Agency is one of the pioneers of the UAE’s travel sector and the biggest travel management company in Abu Dhabi in terms of size and sales volume, employing over 500 multilingual, qualified staff. The company is headquarted in Abu Dhabi and has over 70 offices across 50 locations in the UAE.
Business has been booming for Omeir Travel in 2011. Despite the financial constraints in the market, the company has added a number of large multi-national corporations to its list of prestigious corporate clients; and reports “high double digit growth”.
Omeir Travel has also been busy innovating this year in a bid to stay ahead of its competitors — launching a highly-advanced CRM system to support its call centre and corporate clientele.
In 2012 Omeir Travel is planning to focus on providing “increased interaction with walk-in customers and existing clients.”
Much of this will take place through the online sphere — the company website is in the process of being re-branded with additional features such as online booking and more user-friendly facilities being added.
CEO of Omeir Travel Khalifa Bin Omeir joined the family business as CFO of the group in 2002.
In 2007 he took over the mantle of the company as the group CEO overseeing the day to day operations. His entrepreneurship and leadership qualities have been a driving force for the development of Omeir Travel into a leading corporate agency acquiring key global and national accounts.
06 Orient Travel
Staff: 260 Offices: 28 CEO: Asim Arshad
Orient Travel employs 260 staff across the UAE. The company has the distinction of being the only TMC with offices in all seven Emirates. The company’s average sales turnover is in excess of US $177 million (AED 650 million) per annum.
Despite the recent recession, Orient Travel has embarked on an expansion spree, adding new offices across the country. This year Orient opened new branches on Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, and Passport Road, Abu Dhabi and is set to launch a new office in International City, Dubai soon.
Other recent developments include a strategic partnership with Indian online travel company, Cleartrip to become their fulfillment partners in the region.
Orient Travel also represents Egencia, an Expedia Inc. company in the UAE and services all corporate accounts handled by Egencia worldwide. Recently Orient became the first TMC to be given complete hotel online content of Expedia outside the company’s own offices. These international partnerships have played a major part in helping Orient grow its corporate business this year.
The online sector will be a major focus for Orient Travel going forward. The company has already launched an online booking tool for corporate clients, and will follow that with one for retail customers in 2012. A new CRM system has also been introduced across every Orient Travel office to allow consultants to better manage customers and build loyalty programmes.
In further developments Orient Travel partnered with Malaysia Tourism this year for a road-show across Sharjah and Ajman as part of a successful joint pre-Ramadan campaign; the company was also involved in organising two golf tournaments at the Emirates Golf course in addition to sponsoring monthly medals at the Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club.
CEO Asim Arshad has been with Orient Travel for over 30 years and as such is regarded as a major player in the region’s travel industry, especially due to his proactive involvement in the Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group (DTTAG) and Sharjah Travel Agent Association.
07 Al Rais Travel
Staff: 500 Offices: 25 Deputy Managing Director: Mohamed Al Rais
Established in 1977, Al Rais Travel is one of the largest independent travel agencies in the UAE and GSA for 19 international airlines including Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Kenya Airways and Continental Airlines.
The company has 25 strategically located offices throughout the UAE with over 500 employees. Al Rais Travel is also represented through six offices in the Lufthansa City Center network. This year has seen Al Rais Travel developing its holidays product as well as making investments into new technology to ensure the company has a full online offering for customers.
But despite changing customer needs, Mohamed Al Rais — who heads up the family business — says that Al Rais Travel’s number one focus going forward is to “maintain the same high level of service” for all clients.
08 Abu Dhabi Travel Bureau
Staff: 215 Offices: 19 Managing Director: Mohamed Salehi
Abu Dhabi Travel Bureau (ATB) employs around 215 people at 19 offices in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. The company reports annual sales volumes of US $ 217.9 million (AED 800 million).
This has been a busy year for ATB. The company finalised the GSA agreement with RAK Airways, adding a further international airline to its portfolio of 11 GSA representations.
Another major achievement was the addition of two new implant offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. ATB was also appointed authorised distributor for Ferrari World, Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
This year also saw ATB win a spate of awards; including ‘UAE’s Leading Travel Agency’ and ‘Abu Dhabi’s Leading Travel Agency’ at the World Travel Awards; top-selling agent for a number of international and national carriers; as well as the Austrian Tourism Trophy for Abu Dhabi & Al Ain for its work in promoting Austrian Tourism packages.
In 2012 the company plans to continue in its mission to position itself as the GCC’s leading Travel Management Company and is working towards achieving the ISO 9001:2008 Certification — which certifies quality management systems.
09 Sharaf Travel Services
Staff: 270 Offices: 12 Managing director: V Jayaram
Sharaf Travel employs 270 staff across four divisions of its travel consortium. Sharaf Travel is directly represented in the UAE, with eight offices in Dubai, two in Abu Dhabi, one in Sharjah as well as one in Oman; and it also has associate offices in Bahrain and Qatar. The company also recently opened a new office in Mumbai, India.
This year saw Sharaf Travel successfully obtain ISO 9001-2008 certification awarded by Det Norske Veritas (DNV), the world’s leading body offering management systems certification. Sharaf Travel achieved the certificate following an extensive audit of its processes conforming to stringent quality management system parameters.
Sharaf has also initiated a company-wide ‘Achieving Excellence’ programme, adopting a policy of quality management in all areas of the business.
Expansion has been on the cards this year too with new travel kiosks at Times Square Mall, Dubai; and Musaffah, Abu Dhabi; and further expansion across the UAE is planned for 2012.
Sharaf Travel is also standing above the crowd with its CSR initiatives which involve enabling customers to keep track of and manage their carbon footprint whilst they travel.
Sharaf Travel is led by managing director V.Jayaram who has an extensive 30 years experience in the travel industry and whose goal is for Sharaf Travel to become “one of the top Travel Management companies in the Middle East by 2015.”
10 Elaf Travel
Staff: 200 Offices: 10 CEO: Ziyad Ahmed Bin Mahfouz
Elaf Travel & Tourism is one of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s leading travel companies, which since establishment in 1981, has mushroomed to encompass 10 outlets across the Kingdom — located in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah and Riyadh — all of which cover the full range of travel and tourism services.
The company has also expanded internationally with branches located in Cairo, Casablana, London and Jakarta.
Elaf Travel has been voted among the Kingdom’s top 10 travel and tourism agencies by airlines such as British Airlines and Egypt Air.
CEO Ziyad Ahmed Bin Mahfouz has made a major contribution to the development of the Kingdom’s tourism sector by actively developing religious tourism from key markets such as Turkey and Bahrain, showcasing the company’s Hajj and Umrah travel services as well as highlighting Saudi’s rich cultural heritage as a way to develop tourism to Saudi.
11 Airlink International
Staff: 180 Vice President – Travel: Samir Andraos
Established in 1976, Airlink employs 180 people in the Middle East travel sector. Airlink has offices in the UAE, Qatar and Lebanon and partner offices throughout the rest of the Middle East through its partnership with Travel Solutions International (TSI) — a travel network which has offices across the globe, in Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, UAE, UK and USA.
2011 has seen Airlink invest heavily in technology in order to provide clients with secure online access to reports, online booking tools, travel security software and data security among other services. Airlink is also currently in the process of developing its own booking tool to provide clients with the best in travel management technology. Further investments in technology are planned in 2012.
Airlink has continued to expand its client base this year, winning accounts of several local and international conglomerates and managing the travel requirements of both their offices in the UAE and across the Middle East.
Samir Andraos who leads the business has over 30 years of local industry experience, and is a member and leader of several market steering groups in Dubai — currently acting as vice president of the Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group (DTTAG).
12 Al Naboodah Travel
Staff: 150 Offices: 6 Managing Director: Nasir Jamal Khan
Established in 1973, UAE-based Al Naboodah Travel & Tourism has six offices — three in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman. Led by general manager Nasir Jamal Khan, Al Naboodah represents some of the world’s most renowned airlines — Air France, Cathay Pacific, Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Air Canada and Air Zimbabwe as well as French resort chain Club Med. It is ISO 9001:2008 accredited, and a member of American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), DTTAG and the Travel and Tourism Agencies Council - Abu Dhabi (ATTAC) and IATA.
13 ITL World
Staff: 152 Offices: 12 Managing director: Sideek Ahmed Haji Panamtharayil
Headquartered in Mumbai, India, ITL World spread its roots into the GCC in 2006. The company now employs 152 staff in the Middle East travel sector at 12 offices across Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE with annual sales volume of around US $250 million.
This year the company has focused its energies on staff retention and recruitment with new training programmes such as regular in-house leadership, delegation and team building to keep moral and motivation high; and recruitment of experienced staff for all branches including experts in various disciplines such as accounting, MICE, leisure, operations and sales.
ITL World has moved into contracting directly with local hotel groups and has appointed renowned DMCs globally to handle clients in order to ensure quality services from booking through to final execution.
New technological developments include the launch of E Travel in all branches; Jotter — an in-house system which helps in quoting/booking; and a new B2B portal to be launched soon.
Going forward the plan for ITL World is to expand into offering DMC services in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and to introduce a new incentive scheme for clients as well as staff.
14 Al Futtaim Travel
Staff: 100 Offices: 9 Managing director: William Horsley
Part of the Al Futtaim Group, Al Futtaim Travel has a team of 100 people, many of whom have been with the organisation for over 10 years, demonstrating their solid commitment to the company.
Al Futtaim Travel is represented across the UAE with eight offices, and also has an office in Brazil. Globally Al Futtaim is represented through a partnership with WIN — a consortium of over 6000 leading agencies.
International expansion is on the cards next year as it plans to open new offices in Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The company is also focusing on new technological developments going forward.
While the details are under wraps at this stage, Phase one, which will be released towards the end of the year, promises to have a “significant impact on the industry.” Also coming up in 2012 are new implant offices creating a robust on and offline distribution network.
Al Futtaim is exclusive GSA for global tour operator Thomas Cook — and the Thomas Cook/Al Futtaim Travel brand is set to become the second largest tour operator in the GCC with significant market penetration and brand awareness throughout 2012.
Pioneering the rejuvenation and strategic development of Al Futtaim Travel is managing director William Horsely who has been part of the GCC travel industry for the last 38 years and as such has dedicated much of his career to the region’s travel sector.
15 Al Ghanim Travel
Staff: 80 Offices: 5 General Manager: Zaid Al-Khubaizi
A division of Al Ghanim Industries, the largest family-owned business in Kuwait, Al Ghanim Travels is one of Kuwait’s largest travel companies, with 80 staff spread over five branches and three GSA offices.
The company represents American Express in Kuwait and acts as GSA for a number of airlines such as British Airways and Cathay Pacific.
With one of the biggest markets for outbound travel of any country in the GCC competition among travel agents in Kuwait is fierce; but Al Ghanim Travel is standing above the crowd with major investments in upping its technology capabilities. Al Ghanim was the first travel agency in Kuwait to this year launch its own online travel booking portal complete with payment gateway; as well as an online booking tool for corporate customers.
The online booking tool was successfully ‘soft’ launched to corporate customers in October, and should be fully functional for both B2B and B2C access by early 2012.
General manager of Al Ghanim Travel, Zaid Al Khubaizi oversees the General Sales Agency (GSA) division (representing major airlines and American Express) as well as the commercial and retail sales division. Al Khubaizi has had 27 years in the industry (of which 15 years was with Kuwait Airways prior to joining Al Ghanim Travel).
16 Al Rostamani Travel and Holidays
Staff: 90 Offices: 6 General Manager: Vik Naidu
Established in 1979, UAE-based Al Rostamani Travel and Holidays has been dealing in corporate travel, holidays and inbound travel for the last 32 years.
This year brought changes at the top for Al Rostamani Travel with Vik Naidu — formerly marketing director of the Al Rostamani Group, and regional CEO, Saatchi and Saatchi — taking the helm as general manager.
Exciting times are ahead for Al Rostamani Travel in 2012 which has been declared ‘Year of the Employee’ whereby enhanced training (both technical and leadership) and other creative team building and customer focused initiatives will be put in place to raise customer service levels and professionalism.
The STARS programme — a year-long management training programme for up-and-coming stars in the organisation will also be launched; and the company will move its corporate division to new offices on Sheikh Zayed Road as well as launch a state-of-the-art retail outlet in Dubai.
Further expansion is planned for the company across the GCC and more holiday products will be added too, making Al Rostamani “ones to watch” for the years ahead.
17 Belhasa Tourism & Travel
Staff: 52 Offices: 5 Managing director: Narouz Sarkies
Belhasa Tourism & Travel is part of the Belhasa Group of Companies. Belhasa Tourism & Travel has grown to encompass five offices in Dubai and three representative offices throughout the GCC, with a total of 52 staff. Since its establishment in 1996, Belhasa Tourism & Travel has grown to be considered one of the top wholesalers in Dubai and a well-organised global tour operating company working throughout the emirates.
This has been a busy few years for Belhasa Tourism & Travel. The company launched its own office in China in March 2010 to capitalise on the burgeoning tourism sector there.
This year has also seen the opening of a new branch in Dubai on Etihad Road, plus the development of a new B2B /B2C online system which is due to be launched in January 2012. Next year will see further international expansion for Belhasa Tourism & Travel with the launch of offices in Latin America and Paris.
Narouz Sarkies is managing director, and has been with the company for a total of 13 years.
18 Nasser Air Travel
Staff: 40 Offices: 3 General Manager: Roshan Mohamed
Part of the Nasser Abdulla Lootah Group, Nasser Air Travel & Shipping was established in 1976. The company employs around 40 staff in the Middle East travel sector across its three Dubai offices; and it also has international offices located in Mauritius, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia.
Nasser Air Travel reports sales volumes of approximately US $27.2million (AED 100 million). This year saw expansion for Nasser Air Travel with the opening of two new branches in Dubai, located in Muhaisnah and Jumeirah. Other major developments include new corporate implants at the RTA and other government institutions, as well as in-house training at the company which has seen all staff fully trained up on GDS systems and hotel booking engines as well as being provided with laptops and Blackberrys to cater to market requirements.
In 2012, Nasser Air Travel is planning further expansion across the region with new offices in Oman, Bahrain and Qatar, as well as in Europe to target inbound GCC tourism and the Hajj and Umrah markets.
General manager, Roshan Mohamed has 16 years experience in the Middle East travel trade in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE. His previous experience includes being a travel agent, holidays executive, tour executive, GDS Galileo trainer cum key account manager and international sales head for Hertz. Mohamed is using his multinational multi cultural experiences to make it a better place to work for every staff and the organisation.
Staff: 12 Offices: 2 Managing partners: Nabil and Basel Abu Alrub
The managing partners of UTravel are newcomers to the region’s travel scene but in the short space of a year since they set up Dubai-based UTravel, they have certainly become the “ones to watch” when it comes to travel agencies.
In it’s first year of operation UTravel has double its sales force, and the last quarter of this year saw the company quadruple its revenue. UTravel has focused its efforts on tapping into the fast-growing Chinese market and has successfully signed numerous deals with Asian multinational companies based in the Middle East. The company is also strategically targeting the luxury traveller sector. UTravel launched its ‘ultra-holidays’ division this year with an extensive network of travel partners across the region and was the only travel agency from the Middle East to snap up the opportunities at the Pure Experiences 2011 Exhibition in Marrakech.
The brothers have prioritised their technology offering, creating a user-friendly website featuring numerous inspirational packages as well as a Facebook page which now boasts more than 3,700 followers — the region’s largest Facebook network in the travel trade.
Technology also features in UTravel’s ad campaign — the first outdoor advertising in the travel industry with a customised QR code which, once scanned automatically downloads Utravel’s contact details onto the user’s smartphone.
A creative nationwide advertising campaign on print and radio; plus further exciting technology developments are in the pipeline for 2012, although the brothers refuse to give too much away for now... but with so much achieved in one year it looks to be a bright future ahead.
20 Arabian Pacific Travel & Tourism
Offices: 1 General Manager: Mark Reed
Arabian Pacific is a British-owned company headquartered in Dubai. General manager Mark Reed has worked in the USA for Walt Disney and has held senior roles in London for a large international travel company. Before relocating to Dubai, Mark had several years in a representation position with a reputable national airline. Arabian Pacific is focused on servicing the expat market for both corporate and leisure travel, with a wide client base including real estate, exhibitions, construction, security, law and finance.